Roger Ailes’s widow says Murdochs have ‘wreaked havoc’ on Fox News
Wife of former CEO forced out over sexual harassment allegations says Rupert Murdoch lacks her husband’s ‘genius’
Rupert Murdoch’s family has “wreaked havoc” on Fox News, said the widow of Roger Ailes, the network’s former chief executive, adding that the 92-year-old media baron would “never come close” to her late husband’s “genius”.
Ailes died on 18 May 2017 at the age of 77. The former Republican operative built Fox News into a rightwing media giant but died less than a year after he was forced out over allegations of extensive sexual harassment.
On Monday his widow, Elizabeth Ailes, a former producer and executive at NBC, issued a tweet to mark what would have been his 83rd birthday.
“Happy Heavenly Birthday Roger Ailes,” she wrote. “It took you 20 years to build Fox News into the powerhouse that it was and only six years for the Murdochs to wreak havoc. Rupert thought he could do your job. What a joke. He has the checkbook but could never come close to your genius. RIP.”
Rupert Murdoch’s checkbook has been strained of late. Fox agreed to pay $787.5m to settle a $1.6bn defamation lawsuit brought by Dominion Voting Systems over the broadcast of Donald Trump’s lies about voter fraud in his 2020 presidential election defeat.
The network faces other potentially costly lawsuits.
Another voting machine company, Smartmatic, has lodged a $2.7bn defamation suit, which Fox has called “a flagrant attempt to deter our journalists from doing their jobs”. Another defamation suit was filed by Nina Jankowicz, a former head of a federal government group meant to combat misinformation.
Last week, Fox reported a $54m loss for the first three months of the year.
Elizabeth Ailes spoke to the Daily Beast after her tweet on Monday.
“Roger never had his hand off the wheel when it came to Fox,” she said, adding that the Murdoch family, from Australia, “weren’t born here and don’t have the same pedigree”.
She also mocked Rupert Murdoch’s sons, saying her husband used to call James and Lachlan Murdoch “Tweedle Dumb” and “Tweedle Dumber”.
Of Lachlan Murdoch, the chief executive of his father’s News Corp, Ailes said: “I was told he’s a spear fisherman – I don’t know if he spends time in the office.”
Ailes likened her husband’s fate to that of other big names at Fox News, saying the Murdochs “figured out how to chop off his head”.
“That’s what the Murdochs did to Roger,” she told the Daily Beast, “Bill O’Reilly, Eric Bolling, and they did it to Tucker.”
Bill O’Reilly and Eric Bolling were hosts forced out over alleged sexual misconduct. Tucker Carlson was the top-rated primetime host until he was fired in the aftermath of the Dominion settlement.
The reason for Carlson’s firing remains unknown. Among Fox’s legal difficulties is a suit from Abby Grossberg, a former producer who alleges a hostile and misogynistic working environment, claims Fox has called “unmeritorious” and “riddled with false allegations”.
In video leaked last week, referring to liberal attacks on Fox News, Carlson said Roger Ailes “would never put up with this shit”. Carlson has also said he now plans to broadcast on Twitter.
Fox News did not comment on Elizabeth Ailes’s remarks.
When Ailes died, Rupert Murdoch called him a “brilliant broadcaster”.
He also said: “Roger and I shared a big idea which he executed in a way no one else could have. In addition, Roger was a great patriot who never ceased fighting for his beliefs … We will always be enormously grateful for the great business he built. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Elizabeth, and son, Zachary.”
Elizabeth Ailes told the Beast: “As one empire falls, maybe another will rise.”
Editor, Guardian US